The only surprise: that anyone should be surprised.
Academe, and especially the American ivies, have long had a soft spot for extremist anti-Semitism. Like Hamas’s ideology today, in the 1930s, Nazism penetrated the universities throughout the “civilized” world. Because of the mass firings of Jewish professors, and on-going reports of the perversion of science and learning at German universities, on February 2, 1936, Dr. Hensley Henson, the Anglican Bishop of Durham, wrote a letter to the Times of London. It called for a boycott of the Heidelberg Celebration—an academic parallel to the 1936 Olympics organized by Goebbels—by all British universities and learned societies:
The essential solidarity of academic purpose, the broadly human interest of science, the supreme and universal claim of truth, the indispensableness of liberty in its pursuit – these are the postulates which govern the policy and practice of civilized universities, and, apart from their honest acceptance, no genuine academic fellowship can exist… …Neither the mind nor the conscience of the individual is to stand outside the manipulation and control of the totalitarian national State. The present rulers of Germany would echo the cynical speech of Lenin: “It is true that liberty is precious—so precious that it must be rationed.” This demented nationalism of the Nazis and Fascists endangers not only the peace of the world, but also the ultimate franchises of self-respecting manhood. In the victimized minorities—religious, academic, racial, and political—humanity has its true champions. That is their claim to the homage and assistance of all who value liberty. It cannot be right that the universities of Great Britain, which we treasure as the very citadels of sound learning, because they are the vigilant guardians of intellectual freedom, should openly fraternize with the shameless enemies of both.
Bishop Henson’s call for a boycott initiated a debate deemed so important for consideration by American universities and colleges that it was immediately published in book form by Viking Press with the title Heidelberg and the Universities of America, with a foreword by Samuel Seabury, Charles C. Burlingham, Henry Stimson, and James F. Byrnes. All four men were influential lawyers; Stimson and Byrnes went on to become important members of the Roosevelt administration, Stimson as Secretary of War (1940–1945) and Byrnes as a key advisor to both Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. Stimson supported Roosevelt’s policies of supporting England and France against Germany in 1939–1941 and containing Imperial Japanese expansion. Later, he was responsible for the Manhattan Project—urged by Einstein—to build the atomic bomb, and argued successfully for the Nuremberg War Crimes trials after Germany’s defeat.
Henson’s call for a boycott went “viral.” The administrations at a number of ivies—including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Vassar, and Cornell—had accepted the Heidelberg invitation routinely, only to be confronted with angry protests from some faculty, students, and alumni. An editorial entitled “The Rumor Confirmed” in the Cornell Daily Sun of March 3 typifies the negative responses elicited by news of acceptance of the Heidelberg invitation at that university:
President Farrand has confirmed Cornell’s acceptance of the German invitation to attend the 550th anniversary of Heidelberg. He has further stated that he does not regard an exchange of courtesies between two institutions of learning as involving an expression of judgment as to the policies of the political regime in Germany or as to the attitude of the German government toward the universities of that country. We understand that the President is in a very difficult position. Having accepted the invitation without due consideration, he is, so to speak, between Scylla and Charybdis. He has chosen the course of reaffirming his former position. We feel he would be wiser and better serve the interests of the University by choosing the difficult path of retraction… …It is argued that by being a party to this celebration Cornell will be honoring an institution of learning with a position of the greatest historical importance. We feel that the Heidelberg of the Hitler regime is no longer an institution of learning, and in honoring it we will not be honoring the Heidelberg of President Farrand’s student days, the Heidelberg that has for centuries stood as a prominent center of the best in culture and learning. No amount of sentiment or talk of tradition can excuse Nazi persecution of scholars and students. The Heidelberg of today is an illustration of the exorcism of academic freedom by Nazi censorship and repression.…
But—shamefully—most of the American universities crossed the picket line! Why? Firstly, money; namely financial support for faculty and student exchange programs from both German-American and German sources, such as the Carl Schurz Foundation, the DAAD (Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst, the “German Academic Exchange Service”), and wealthy German-American benefactors. Secondly, pro-Nazi and pro-fascist professors and students. And, thirdly, the influence of some senior administrators who were themselves anti-Semitic, refusing to hire Jewish professors, whether they were “local” Jews or German-Jewish émigrés.
Regarding money—and the influence it could buy—in 1934, the German-based Carl Schurz Verein poured 60,000 RM (a very significant sum at that time)—half from Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry and half from the Nazi Foreign Office—into the effort to influence American academe. Monies flowed from the chemical conglomerate I.G. Farben (both the German parent company and its American subsidiary) to pay for academic exchanges, travel, and awards. I.G. Farben was the same company the Nazis contracted to build a synthetic rubber factory at Monowitz-Buna within the Auschwitz camp complex, staffed mostly by Jewish slave laborers—Elie Wiesel among them. It also developed and, through its subsidiary Degesch, manufactured Zyklon-B, the tinned hydrogen cyanide crystals the SS poured into the gas chambers.
Another channel for funding was the DAAD, Nazified in 1933 under the direction of Ewald von Massow. In addition to serving as president of the DAAD, von Massow had a stellar career in the SS, rising from Untersturmführer (“junior storm leader,” the equivalent of an American second lieutenant) in 1933 to Gruppenführer (“group leader,” a major general) in 1939, only three ranks below Heinrich Himmler himself. Given this level of support, American university and college presidents were loath to break ties with German institutions. Some Vassar alumni saw the promise of scholarships as a form of bribery, writing,
Obviously, the invitation to the Heidelberg celebration is but a transparent ruse to get foreign universities to put their stamp of approval on education in the Third Reich. In the case of Vassar, the offer of six scholarships at Heidelberg cannot, in the circumstances, be regarded as anything but a bribe and as such an insult to the intellectual integrity of the college. In the interest of Vassar’s standing and its liberal tradition we cannot stand by and see the college used as a tool by political forces which deny the very existence of freedom of thought and speech for which Vassar and the American system of education stand in the eyes to the world.
Today, the American campus organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) supports the dissemination of Hamas’s anti-Semitic rhetoric on approximately three hundred American campuses. We know this much about its funding: American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)—a Hamas money-laundering operation manned by the old guard from the now-defunct Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and its affiliate KindHearts—funds SJP, which, in turn, organizes pro-Hamas protests on campuses across the U.S. SJP also receives money from organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, J Street, and its mother organization, the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), a major Muslim Brotherhood front group.
There is much that we still do not know about the funding for the Hamas movement in America; billionaire donors may well include the Hamas leaders themselves.
It was in the climate of anti-Semitism metastasizing onto university campuses—nurtured by identity politics, Black Lives Matter (BLM), critical race theory (CRT), diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and the riots sparked by George Floyd’s death—that in July of 2020, the present writer was cancelled for publishing an opinion piece in the Journal of Schenkerian Studies. The crime was defending the Austrian-Jewish music theorist Heinrich Schenker (1868–1935).
In the article (see pp. 157–166), I had argued that Philip Ewell, a professor at Hunter College, who self-identifies as black, and his allies, tendentiously falsified music history to transform Schenker into a “white oppressor” responsible for the paucity of blacks in the field of music theory. After I pointed out that Schenker was a Jew, with all that entailed in the Austro-German context of the 1920s and ’30s and the rise of Hitler, Ewell and his cohorts pivoted to recasting Schenker as an anti-Semitic Jewish Nazi. Since Jews are “white,” and, as such, must enjoy “white privilege,” Schenkerians must have colluded to eliminate non-whites from the field of academic music theory, just as “white” Jewish Israelis have persecuted non-white Palestinians. Labeling Jews “white” and “white framing” them, as Ewell did to Schenker, is historically false and profoundly inimical to Jews who, like Schenker, value their religion and cultural heritage. Of course, as an Eastern European Jewish “other” in Vienna, Schenker was always an outsider. He and his émigré students fleeing Nazism played no part in preventing the advancement of blacks in music theory in America. Such claims scapegoating Schenker and his mostly Jewish émigré students fall under the broad rubric of the infamous Nazi phrase die Juden sind unser Unglück (“the Jews are our misfortune”). This song from 1931, An allem sind die Juden schuld (“It’s all the fault of the Jews”), explains the anti-Semitic strategy. So it was then for the Nazis, and so it is now for the Islamofascists in Hamas and their fellow travelers who cast Jews as Nazis.
Like Cassandra forecasting the fall of Troy, in my rebuttal to Ewell, I had explicitly warned against the academic ideological justification for a second Holocaust of Israeli Jews: “The great danger of lending academic imprimatur to these demagogues is that it establishes the requisite ideological foundations for a second Holocaust of Israeli Jews, just as Nazi academic literature in 1920s and 1930s laid the groundwork for the (first) Holocaust” (p. 163, n. 7). I specifically pointed out the true meaning of documented anti-Semite Jasbir Puar’s book Right to Maim (2017), published disgracefully by Duke University Press, which egregiously, and falsely, claims that bodies of Palestinian children were mined for organs by the Israeli military, and that recent conflicts in Gaza were driven by organ harvesting. The teaching of this naked blood libel at Princeton and other universities has subsequently given rise to controversy. Post-October 7, 2023, through a psychotic inversion, the imaginary perpetrator of such mutilation—the Israeli Jew—now becomes the real-life victim of maiming, as realized by Hamas through decapitation, etc. Exactly as I predicted three years ago, it has come to pass that eliminationist anti-Semitism has triumphed at Columbia, at CUNY—which hired similarly well-documented Jew-hater Marc Lamont Hill (who has parroted Hamas slogans and defended Louis Farrakhan)—at Harvard, Yale, Penn, UCLA, Cooper Union, and even at my own public University of North Texas near Dallas.
My alma mater, the CUNY Graduate Center, has been designated the most anti-Semitic university in America—although, in light of recent events, it is unclear whether some other ivy-league schools now surpass it in that distinction. In today’s climate, there is a ubiquitous tendency to view everything in terms of the present, as if anti-Semitism at American universities in general, and at CUNY in particular, arose suddenly, just like Athena, fully formed, out of the head of Zeus without a long gestation period. In fact, the roots of anti-Semitism at CUNY reach back to the 1980s, and probably earlier, to black nationalist discourse in Africana Studies departments at Hunter and City Colleges, and analogous departments at some ivy-leagues. In this context, Professors of Africana Studies Leonard Jeffries and John Henrik Clarke at CUNY and Tony Martin at Wellesley College should be mentioned as influential Afrocentrists who promulgated the anti-Semitic canard that Jews were primarily responsible for the slave trade (in conjunction with Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam), and the “Black Athena” myth that Greeks stole Western culture from Africa. The historical context for Black anti-Semitism at CUNY to which I was alluding in my 2020 journal article is established by many reports, including a 1991 article from The Washington Post, “In New York, A Bigoted Man on Campus,” which describes a speech delivered by Jeffries on July 20, 1991:
Apparently the speech was just about as long as an address by Fidel Castro—two hours!—and even loonier. Ostensibly speaking to the question of Afro-centric education, Jeffries launched into a tirade against whites generally and Jews specifically [my emphasis] But if you doubt that Jeffries possesses a scholarly mind, tell that to the ranking officials of the City University of New York, of which City College is a part. Although Jeffries’ race-baiting harangues have been a familiar part of CUNY life for years, this has not prevented him from gaining both tenure and the chairmanship of his department, not to mention a following at City College as, in the Times’ description, “a popular, flamboyant lecturer.”
Clarke taught his thousands of students at Hunter that, contrary to the Jews’ claims, there was not, and had never been, an historical alliance between Blacks and Jews. From the beginning, the Jews had always betrayed the African peoples who befriended them. Already in the 1980s, Clarke defined the beast as
bicephalous, white America joined with Zionist Jews, together bent on strangling the people of color in the United States, Africa, and the Middle East. The Jews, who, according to the nationalists, had perfected the “modern evil of neo-colonialism,” now conspired with the U.S. government to deploy Zionist-Dollarism to subjugate them. This time the Satanic Jews were not driven to overthrow Christendom, to destroy the Aryan race, or even to undermine Islam and poison its prophet, but to colonize all people of color.
In a speech at Wayne County Community College, Clarke stated that “A mere handful of people [i.e., the Jews] utilized the word ‘Holocaust’ and made the entire world weep for them, making Black people forget that it was this same handful who participated in the African holocaust.” He added that the “evil” genius of Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Albert Einstein has “colonized” the minds of the world. We have Ewell and his friends to thank for adding Schenker and his students to this list of demonic Jews.
These claims, based upon egregious falsifications of historical facts, were debunked by scholars in the 1990s; but now, infused with a new lease on life by CRT, they have morphed into new ideological malignancies presenting, for example, in the assault on Schenker. One of the main early critics was Mary Lefkowitz, a Jewish professor of Classics at the same college as Martin. Her book, History Lesson: A Race Odyssey (2008), which Ewell attacks in his recent book, tells the story of her academic and legal battles against Martin. Lefkowitz, too, analyzed the Afrocentrists’ anti-Semitism in some detail (see her chapter “A New Anti-Semitism,” pp. 82–94). Another important critic was the black historian Clarence E. Walker, who argues in his book We Can’t Go Home Again (2001) that “Afrocentrism offers not an empowering understanding of black Americans’ past but a pastiche of ‘alien traditions’ held together by simplistic fantasies” (p. xxx).
Let us return to June 1935, where we find Bishop Henson writing in his private diary about the importance of historical truth in the battle against Nazism and Fascism, and the fact that all ideologues must censor the past. “In order to achieve its objects,” Henson observes, “Fascism has been obliged to dismiss the Past, or, when it remembers it, to slander history, which remains a silent but ever mocking observer”:
Happily, it is not entirely possible to destroy the cultural harvest of so many generations. The arts of printing and reading have made “totalitarian” and long-enduring Dictatorships impossible. If the Dictator is a well-read man they weaken even his resolution. The denunciation of democracy, for example, to the children simply arouses their curiosity. For the sake of efficiency Fascists are compelled to honour and admit intellect; and too many of them know that they have themselves not produced enough to justify the repudiation of the past. The libraries are still the organised opposition in the Fascist State. Yet the full effect of literature and history cannot be brought to bear upon the public mind. Only the parts that support the Fascist view can seep through to form the mind of the adult population and the young. Half a brain is worse than none.
If one looks up John Henrik Clarke on his Hunter College website, there is no mention of his anti-Semitism. Indeed CUNY’s “sanitization” of his biography recalls the Persilscheine (“clean bills of health”) given to ex-Nazis in West Germany: no mention of their anti-Semitic Nazi pasts ought to contaminate their biographies either.
I must add a dark post-script to this chilling account of parallelisms between the rise of Nazi ideology in the 1930s and the woke jihad in our own time.
In 1988, I visited Schenker’s grave in Vienna’s New Jewish Cemetery, the Neue Israelitische Friedhof (pictured). At that time, I had just completed my doctoral dissertation in music theory at the CUNY Graduate Center under Prof. Carl Schachter and had won an Austrian Intercountry Exchange Post-Doctoral Fellowship to spend a year studying Bruckner manuscripts in Vienna. On that visit, I recited the traditional prayer (Kaddish) over Schenker’s grave and placed a memorial stone upon it. On November 1, 2023, in the wake of the October 7 massacre and Israel’s war against Hamas, Austrian anti-Semites felt empowered to desecrate the Jewish cemetery where Schenker is buried. The cemetery walls were daubed with swastikas in bright red paint. The small chapel in the cemetery, located not far from Schenker’s grave, was burned a second time, the first by the Nazis in 1938. Valuable books and manuscripts were destroyed. If it were not enough for Ewell to deface Schenker’s spiritual and intellectual legacies with the false attribute of pro-Nazism, now his burial place must also suffer the further indignity of being branded with the swastika. Even his bones are allowed no peace.
The numbing symbolism of the cemetery’s desecration—once by Nazis, now by unknown barbarians in the crimson wake of an Islamic massacre, cheered on (again) by collegiate bigots—is palpable. Diaspora Jews, once secure in their hard-earned prominence in the Western world’s meritocracies, are now hounded out—unwelcome even in their graves.
Could Juden raus, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free [Judenrein],” and the “Jews are white oppressors” all lead to the same abyss? I fear that asking the question in first place reveals the answer.
As he watched the intensifying persecution of the Jews in Germany and Austria in the late 1930s, Bishop Henson recalled the words of Ecclesiastes 4:2–3 in the King James Version. Writing in his forward to the English translation of The Yellow Spot (1938), he lamented that
The bitter words of the Preacher of Israel rise on the memory: “Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive; yea, better than them both did I esteem him which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.” It is no matter for astonishment that among the German Jews suicides are now numerous.
Ominously, he added, “But the Jews are only the first victims of a Calamity—the Ice-age of the human spirit—which is coming on civilized mankind.”
The only surprise: that anyone should be surprised, especially the Jews.